DENVER (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, Mark Kelly, is scheduled to testify Monday in the Colorado Legislature, where lawmakers will vote on some of the strictest gun proposals the state has ever considered.
Two state Senate committees planned to begin work Monday on a package of Democratic gun-control measures that already have cleared the House. Those include limits on ammunition magazine and expanded background checks to include private sales and online purchases.
Kelly, a retired Navy captain and astronaut, has testified before Congress in support of gun-control measures. Giffords, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tucson, Ariz., was shot in the head in January 2011 while meeting with constituents. His testimony in Denver Monday was scheduled on a bill to expand background checks on private gun sales.
Colorado is a politically moderate state at the center of a debate over what new restrictions, if any, are needed to prevent gun violence since mass shootings at a suburban Denver movie theater and a Connecticut elementary school. The White House is watching, and last month Vice President Joe Biden called some state House Democrats before they voted to pass four gun measures after a daylong debate.
Gun rights groups like the National Rifle Association and victims of recent shootings are also watching.
Supporters of gun rights were at the Capitol wearing stickers that read, “I Vote Pro-Gun” and several dozen people were outside waving American flags as light snow fell. A small plane flew overhead carrying a banner that read, “HICK: DO NOT TAKE OUR GUNS!” a reference to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Several dozen people were already lined up to testify for the bills, an hour before the proposals were to be heard.
One of the nation’s largest producers of ammunition magazines, Colorado-based Magpul, has threatened to leave the state if lawmakers restrict the size of its products. Its founder said smaller magazines can be easily connected to each other and the company fears it would legally liable if people were to do that.
Victims who have lost relatives to gun violence say it’s time for legislators to take action.
“It’s for those who still have children and are going to be attending schools. It’s for those who go to church on Sundays. It’s for those who go to the mall,” said Dave Hoover, the uncle of 18-year-old AJ Boik, one of 12 people killed in the Aurora theater shooting.
Senators are also taking up two gun-control measures for the first time. One is a contentious measure by Democratic Senate President John Morse to hold gun sellers and owners liable for potential misuse, such as the commission of a crime. The other new gun-safety measure up for debate is a Democratic proposal to tighten education standards for people seeking permits to carry concealed firearms.
The Senate has set aside extra time and additional rooms for the hearings, which are expected to last late into the night.
Those opposing the bills say the proposals will not reduce gun violence, and that lawmakers should focus on strengthening access to mental health services for people who could be dangerous to communities.
Senate Republicans have gotten thousands of emails from supporters of the Second Amendment, urging them to vote no on the bills. In one email provided to The Associated Press, one woman wrote to a senator that she worried that lawmakers would be taking freedoms from her children.
“Please don’t take even a tiny aspect of their freedom from them by passing legislation that in the end can’t stop bad people from making bad decisions,” the woman wrote.
Jane Dougherty, whose sister, Mary Sherlach, was a psychologist killed at Sandy Hook elementary, has been lobbying Colorado lawmakers to pass new gun laws. She said she doesn’t understand gun owners who worry the bills are putting a burden on their rights.
“Let me tell you what a burden is, and I think these people need to know what a burden is,” she said, recalling getting the phone call that her sister had been killed at school, and remembering her mass in Connecticut.
“Then you have to come home, and try to go back to your life, and your life is never the same,” Dougherty said. “All these lives are changed by a gun in the wrong hands. That’s the burden, and we can’t lose sight of that.”
Ivan Moreno is on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ivanjourno
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.